Good Buisness or Taking Advantage of a Battered Economy

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At least two Arnold City Council members say they are against the city financially helping Anheuser Busch-InBev expand its Arnold Metal Container Corporation.

On Thursday, the Arnold City Council approved a measure issuing up to $88 million in bonds to help pay for the 130,000-square-foot expansion. The measure also provides tax abatement on the expansion of the facility.

The council voted 5-to-2 in favor of the measure. Councilmembers Doris Borgelt, Ward 1, and Michelle Hohmeier, Ward 2, cast the opposing votes. Ward 4 Councilwoman Sandra Kownacki was absent from the meeting.

This isn't the proper role of government," said Hohmeier, referring to the city's issuance of bonds and tax abatement.

Superior Oil moved to Arnold from the St. Louis City, and the company didn't ask the city for anything, she said.

"We're also helping CVS by putting in a road, so does that mean we should help Walgreen's because the opening of CVS will take some of their business?" Hohmeier asked. "What about the city's smaller businesses? Are we going to help them, too?"

Additionally, she said the city, the Fox School District and the Rock Community Fire Protection would end up losing tax revenues with the tax abatement.

"AB-Inbev is a multi-billion dollar company," Hohmeier said. "I don't agree with corporate welfare."

City Attorney Bob Sweeney said the tax abatement would only be for the expansion of the facility. He said the city, school district and fire protection district would still receive real estate tax revenue on the existing building.

In response to Hohmeier's concerns, Ward 3 Councilman Paul Freese said, "It may be unfair, but if we didn't work with AB-InBev, they would have left. Sometimes you have to look at the big picture. They're going to add jobs, and this is big for our community in the long run."

In a comment on a previous article, Borgelt wrote, "If (the company) had a normalized profit of $5.815 billion in the last six months, then the estimated $14.5 million tax abatement on real and personal property (city the city) over a 20-year period shouldn't be that much of a burden for them to conduct business here."

In an interview after the meeting, Ward 3 Councilman Phil Amato told Patch it takes five council members to pass any measure having to do with the issuance of bonds to help a business expand.

"It would have been a disaster had the council not approved the measure because the company has already started its expansion," he said.

According to Sweeney, the measure states that the company must maintain its 125 current jobs and add at least 25 new positions as part of the expansion project.

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